Congratulations! You’ve poured your heart and soul into your novel, and now it’s time to share your literary masterpiece with the world. But how do you go about doing that?
Step 1: Edit and Proofread
Before you even think about publishing, it’s crucial to ensure your manuscript is polished to perfection. Consider using beta readers, and then hiring an editor and a proof reader. They’ll help you catch grammar and spelling errors, improve sentence structure, and provide valuable feedback on plot, characters, and pacing. You can find beta readers on sites like Goodreads, and on freelancing sites like Fiverr.
Step 2: Choose Your Route to Publishing
There is a different route if you want to be traditionally published. The key to success there will be finding an agent and eventually publisher who believe your book will sell. This can often be more of a marketing decision than one about quality.
Increasingly, more people want to go down the self-publishing route, as I did with Son of Babylon. That’s what I will cover here.
There are numerous self-publishing platforms available, each with its own advantages and disadvantages. The most popular options include Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP), IngramSpark, Smashwords, and Draft2Digital. Research each platform to determine which one aligns best with your goals and budget.
Step 3: Create an Eye-catching Cover
Don’t underestimate the power of a captivating book cover. Readers often judge books by their covers, so investing in a professional designer is a wise choice. Ensure that your cover art represents your story accurately and stands out in the crowded market. Find similar books to yours, and send pictures of their covers to your designer, asking them to keep their design consistent with those themes. You can find cover designers on freelancing sites like Fiverr.
Step 4: Format Your Manuscript
Formatting is key to ensuring your book looks professional. Most self-publishing platforms provide formatting guidelines that you should follow carefully. Alternatively, you can hire a professional formatter to handle this technical aspect of the process. I wanted Son of Babylon to look professional inside and out, so I chose to hire a professional for this stage too.
Step 5: Get Reviews
NetGalley and other sites allow you to pay to get your book in front of thousands of potential reviewers. There are also lots of ways to find free reviews, such as BookSirens and Goodreads forums. They can’t guarantee reviews, and they certainly can’t guarantee they will be positive. You should never pay directly for reviews, and you should never ask only for positive reviews.
Step 6: Set the Right Price
Pricing your book is a crucial decision. Consider factors like genre, length, and your target audience. Research similar books in your genre to determine a competitive yet profitable price point. Keep in mind that lower prices can attract more buyers but may reduce your earnings per sale. If you plan on releasing multiple books, especially if they are in a series, then growing your audience might be more of a priority than royalties.
Step 7: Get an ISBN (Optional)
While not mandatory for all self-publishers, obtaining an ISBN (International Standard Book Number) can help your book get recognized in libraries and bookstores. You can purchase an ISBN through platforms like Bowker in the US or your country’s respective ISBN agency. If you publish exclusively on Amazon, they will provide a free ISBN.
Step 8: Publish Your Book
Once your manuscript is formatted and your cover is ready, it’s time to publish your book. This typically involves creating an account on your chosen self-publishing platform, uploading your files, and filling in important details like title, author bio, and book description. Ensure that you select the right categories and keywords to optimize your book’s discoverability.
Step 9: Set Up Distribution
Decide whether you want to distribute your book exclusively through one platform or opt for wider distribution. Amazon KDP offers Kindle Select, which provides exclusive benefits in exchange for a 90-day exclusivity period. Alternatively, you can choose non-exclusive distribution to reach other retailers and libraries. You can approach independent bookshops who might be willing to stock a few copies.
Step 10: Market Your Book
Here is where the reviews come in handy, as buyers don’t always trust books without them, and you can use any positive comments in your promotion. Marketing is a continuous effort. Start by creating an author website and utilising social media to connect with potential readers. Consider running book promotions, a press release, giveaways, and securing more reviews from book bloggers or influencers in your genre. Paid advertising, such as Amazon Ads or Facebook Ads, can also boost your book’s visibility. Local newspapers are often happy to run a story about a new local author, and your genre might have communities like the Historical Novel Society that can help you gain visibility.
Step 11: Monitor Sales and Reviews
Once your book is live, keep a close eye on your sales and reviews. Be prepared for both positive and negative feedback. Engage with readers, thank them for reviews, and use constructive criticism to improve your future writing.
Self-publishing a novel is a rewarding journey that allows you to share your storytelling prowess with the world. By following these ten steps, you’ll be well on your way to becoming a successful self-published author. Remember, persistence and dedication are key, and with time and effort, your novel can find its audience and leave a lasting literary legacy.